A Homeschooler’s Guide to High School Biology
If you are a parent preparing to homeschool a high school biology student, you may feel some anxiety the closer you get to the first day of class. It probably feels like there are too many options and too many unknowns. To give you a framework for making decisions, we have outlined some considerations and options and provided links to helpful resources.
Choosing a Curriculum
When looking for a quality biology curriculum, you will want to consider factors like cost, instructional time, perspective on origins, learning style, and more. Here are some questions that might be helpful starting points:
- Does this option align with my beliefs?
- Do I want to use secular or Christian resources?
- Does the curriculum align with my educational philosophy and my student’s learning style?
- Does it undermine science or teach a particular view of creation that is contrary to my own?
- Is the content accurate and thorough?
- Will this material prepare my child for college?
- Will I be able to teach it without a biology degree?
- Does the curriculum provide resources, lab materials, and teacher resources?
Another aspect to keep in mind is what a typical high school biology course should cover. These topics generally include the nature of life, cells, genetics, evolution, plants, animals, and ecology. This can help ensure college readiness and are signs of a well-rounded curriculum. If you notice significant gaps in the materials or course you are considering, you may want to look for an alternative.
At BioLogos, we recommend looking for materials and instructors that teach and respect the conclusions accepted by the scientific community. If you want to teach biology from an evolutionary creationist perspective, this may be more easily accomplished by using a secular curriculum than a Christian option. (Most Christian biology curricula are written from a young earth creationist or Intelligent Design perspective.) However, there are many valid reasons why you might choose a Christian curriculum, and it might be the best overall choice for your child.
Whatever you choose, and whether you are the primary instructor or enroll your student in a course taught by someone else (see options below), consider using BioLogos Integrate to help your student explore biology from a Christian worldview. Integrate is a science curriculum supplement, not a full science curriculum, but it contains many inquiry-based science activities and is organized around the main topics covered in a biology course. Pair it with a secular or Christian biology curriculum to help your student grow in their faith in Christ as they develop a deeper love and stronger understanding of the world God has made.
3 Ways to Homeschool High School Biology
1. Teach the course yourself
This option will involve securing all the components and organizing the course. It gives the parent the most control over the presentation of the content and the most flexibility to meet individual student needs. A complete curriculum package should have the following components:
- Student textbook
- Teacher’s edition or manual: This often has many teaching strategies that would be useful for those who need extra support
- Test and quiz bank access
- Lab manual and materials
- Lesson plans and course schedule (provided by the publisher or yourself)
Our top recommendation for a biology textbook from a Christian perspective is General Biology from Novare Science. The full program includes the student text, access to digital resources, and a student’s guide to experiments. Order online from Classical Academic Press.
For secular textbooks, we recommend several published by Savvas Learning Company (formerly known as Pearson K12 Learning):
For general biology: Miller & Levine’s Biology (2019 “Bee” edition or 2017/2014/2010 “Macaw” edition) – while this book is secular, the authors are a believing Catholic and an observant Jew, and we find little to no secular bias.
Along with the text of your choice, you may want to order the teacher’s edition. Digital programs are unfortunately not available for homeschoolers. While it is possible to order student and teacher editions directly from Savvas by phone, the process is unnecessarily complicated. We therefore recommend purchasing used textbooks or renting textbooks. Although student textbooks may be easy to find, especially if you are willing to use an older edition, it is often harder to locate teacher resource materials.
- To find used curricula, check out Homeschool Classifieds, Homeschool Buyers Co-op, or your local or regional Facebook homeschooling chapter.
- Amazon offers new and used textbooks, as well as the option to rent the text for a calendar year.
To provide a complete biology course, you should also include hands-on lab work. The following companies sell lab manuals and supply kits for homeschoolers:
For quick links to many videos that go along with many science textbooks, see HippoCampus.
2. Enroll your student in an in-person course
More options are being offered to homeschoolers that provide science courses outside of the home, such as in homeschool co-ops, community colleges or school hybrid programs. Students are taught by an expert and have the benefit of peer interaction. Even though this option involves paying tuition and lab fees, parents may find it more cost effective than teaching a course themselves at home. These are often offered by the following:
Public or Christian school hybrid programs
Christian schools are often open to hybrid programs with homeschooling families. A hybrid program provides a homeschool student with the flexibility of learning at home three to four days a week, and then attending a traditional classroom setting the other days. Generally your student will follow the school’s chosen curriculum. Public schools also offer many extracurricular classes, as well as some core classes. To learn about these programs, contact your local school administrator or principal. Ask around in your homeschooling community as well to help you determine what schools are participating in these cooperatives.
Community colleges for dual enrollment
This is a great option for homeschool high school students who are ready for a college experience and want to earn credit hours towards their degree at minimal cost. To learn if your local college offers these programs, contact the admissions office, and ask around in your local homeschooling community about opportunities.
To find out if a biology course will be taught by a local co-op, contact the local homeschool co-op director in your area. Some homeschool co-ops are casual networking groups that mainly provide social interaction and field trips, but other co-ops provide a more structured environment similar to a private school and offer a variety of classes taught by certified teachers and qualified parents.
3. Enroll your student in an online course
If you don’t have in-person options available in your area or you need more flexibility, enrolling your student in an online high school biology course for high school biology could be a good option. Depending on the setup, these may offer some of the benefits of a brick and mortar classroom (e.g., certified instructors, peer interaction, etc.) with the convenience of working from home. Some online academies allow students to enroll in a course for just one subject, while others have a minimum number of courses students must take in order to enroll for the year. These courses are often accredited and students receive a high school diploma if they enroll in a complete curriculum package and participate throughout the four years of high school. These options can vary in form:
- Real time/synchronous classes that meet as a class via webcam and perform many of the experiments together; this requires high-speed Internet access but less guidance from the parent.
- Online public schools, where students participate in a virtual school setting and parents and students are able to create personalized learning plans; this option relies heavily on computer time and is typically scheduled according to your local public school calendar.
- Traditional correspondence courses where students work at their own pace and submit assignments through email or a class server; these usually provide the option of taking a class or two, though some require enrollment in a full year’s course load.
- Independent learning modules, where students work on their own time and at their own pace; this would require parent facilitation and monitoring.
The following are examples (not necessarily recommendations) of accredited online course providers:
- Calvert Education – secular
- Forest Trail Academy – secular, offers dual enrollment
- Kolbe Academy – Christian (Roman Catholic), classical
- Oak Meadow Academy – secular, offers dual enrollment
- Well-Trained Mind Academy – non-sectarian/secular, classical
- Wilson Hill Academy – Christian, classical
Don’t Be Shy! Ask for help.
Sometimes the best way to research and prepare for choosing and teaching a homeschool biology course is to talk to those who have done it before. Join online forums and Facebook groups where home educators gather to share ideas, reviews, and recommendations. Here are a few where you can ask others about different options you are considering:
- BioLogos Integrate Facebook Group
- BioLogos Education Forum
- Well Trained Mind Forum
- Secular Homeschool Community Forum
- Bookshark Homeschool Facebook Page
You may also want to check out blogs and review sites written by experienced homeschooling parents or teachers. Here are a few we’ve found helpful:
- Well Trained Mind – Susan Wise Bauer has developed countless home education resources and provides a lot of content about teaching, how to use curriculums, and more.
- Quark and Quirks – A week-by-week description of how a homeschooling parent introduced her sons to high school biology using a variety of texts. She also provides many helpful reviews on varying curricula.
- The Homeschool Scientist – Biology major and research lab assistant turned homeschool mom, the Homeschool Scientist provides fun and engaging science experiments and resources for biology, earth science, chemistry, and more.
- Amy Brown Science – Biology and chemistry teacher Amy Brown helps equip both teachers and homeschoolers to inspire a love of science in their students. She not only blogs, but also writes and reviews science curricula.
Here are also some secular resources for biology that have been reported as helpful:
- Stated Clearly
- The Crash Course
- Khan Academy
- Ameoba Sisters YouTube
- Science Mom YouTube
You can do this, and we want to help!
Join the Integrate Facebook Group to keep up to date with new resources and training opportunities from Integrate. And come share your comments, questions, or concerns on the BioLogos Education Forum, where you will find a supportive community of other like-minded parents and educators ready to send an encouraging word your way. You can also get in touch with the developers of BioLogos Integrate by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org or using our Contact Form.
We hope you and your students have a successful and exciting year exploring God’s amazing world!